One of the things we appreciate about the blogging platform and the people we interact with online is that they have a knack for calling out blind spots in conversations. Remember the uproar about the lack of women speakers at conferences that resulted in 101 Christian Women Speakers? And the discussion that led to 101 Culturally Diverse Christian Voices? We think this ability to call attention to marginalization is one of the strengths of social media.
Case in point:
Yesterday, a respected Christian leader (who happens to be a strong advocate for women in the church) tweeted a link to The Best 100 Academic Christian Books¹. The list includes some excellent books, but there are no women authors*, with the exception of Darlene Hyatt, mentioned as a co-author.
Of course, there are valid reasons a list like this would have more men than women. For one thing, as Holmes and Farly note in Women, Writing, Theology: Transforming a Tradition of Exclusion: “Both education and ordination have been necessary prerequisites for claiming the authority to write theology-and, with few exceptions, women have been largely excluded from both of these until recently. ..Because the written tradition of Christian theology has been constituted by the exclusion of women…writing theology is problematic for women.”
But getting back to Twitter…
Pushback about the gender exclusivity of the list began showing up in our feed. After all, a list of 100 best Christian anything made up of only men is always going to raise a red flag, especially after our recent post 4 Contributions of Women Scholars. Women in academia have been writing about theology for years now, and there is a reservoir of scholarship to be tapped. I (Gail) tweeted my disappointment, and to his credit, the author graciously asked what books should be on the list and also started a dialogue with us privately². We suggested Esther: The NIV Application Commentary by Karen Jobes. (Should have added Daughters of the Church by Ruth Tucker and Walter Liefeld).
We passed the question on via social media and received some great suggestions. Marg Mowczko reminded us of the women scholars who have worked as translators on modern English Bibles: http://newlife.id.au/female-bible-translators/. And Nick Quient put together this list of books worthy of consideration that we’re delighted to share with you today. So without further ado, here’s Nick!
So I learned about Frank Viola’s 100 best academic book list, and noticed the comments on Twitter.
I know Frank’s heart so I don’t attribute this to ill-will or anything like that. I dig the dude. He’s a cool cat. That said, I wanted to contribute a little to the conversation. This isn’t a response to Frank or anyone in particular. Just giving a few mentors their (over) due. 🙂
In no specific order, the following books written by female theologians have had a profound impact on me. The list could go on, but these are the few that instantly popped to mind.
Jouette Bassler Navigating Paul
For clocking in at barely 100 pages, this book is primed with data that makes a seminarian like myself breath heavily. On the more critical side, but still really helpful at laying out the key issues in the life of Paul. My sole criticism was the lack of detail regarding the duetero-Pauline corpus. Since it wasn’t written by Paul, it wasn’t discussed; this is a negative mark only because of the influence Paul surely had upon the theological additions written in his name. I get it. I just wanted more.
Nancey Murphy Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies?
This one was a doozy. I confess I was already very much in line with her theological anthropology before reading this, but it helped significantly. Her clarity and ability to articular very dense concepts was a great help to me. While I would’ve loved more material in her theological and biblical section, her work cannot be underestimated within Christian and secular spheres.
Marianne Meye Thompson The Promise of the Father: Jesus and God in the New Testament
This is a book particularly relevant to New Testament Christology. While slim, the book crams a lot of information into a short space. Dr. Thompson’s grasp of New Testament theology is well-known and her contribution, particularly in light of the current evangelical ‘subordinationist’ trend in many circles, is lucid, straightforward and enlightening. Her section on Second Temple Judaism was, in my opinion, the highlight of the book. If books needed trailers, that chapter would constitute most of the explosions and music.
Linda Belleville Women Leaders and the Church: 3 Crucial Questions
This ranks high on my list of books affirming an egalitarian interpretation of Scripture. In reading Dr. Belleville, I’m reminded of a swim coach I had in high school. Dogged, fiercely intelligent and, above all, demanded that I really jump in the deep end. Dr. Belleville’s work elucidates that memory. She covers the world outside the New Testament, critiques current scholarship and advocates strongly for the full inclusion of women in the church. A pointed, yet gracious, matter of fact presentation of the egalitarianism found in Scripture.
Lynn Cohick Women in the World of the Earliest Christians
This was an eye-opener for me. While Dr. Cohick does address some of the New Testament texts regarding the status of women in the ancient world (1 Tim. 2:15 is one; John 4 is another), her world is far broader than the New Testament. She delves into manuscripts, ancient letters, inscriptions and the literature of the time. At once broad, yet detail-oriented, her work here was a helpful flick in the ear. I had no idea regarding much of this data and Dr. Cohick brought it all to light for me. And, in case you prefer a pinch of snark in your theological books, every once in a while Dr. Cohick drops a sneaky jab at some ancient sexist patriarch. The cheekiness of it reminds one that they aren’t reading a dry textbook, but are engaged in a book of profound significance.
Again, this was not meant as a ‘response’ to Frank. I actually agree with the majority of the books he placed on the list. And I want to thank him, and others, for inspiring this mini-post.
1. “Ordination: A Biblical-historical View” by Marjorie Warkentin has been added to the list, and a separate list of The Best 100 Christian Books Ever Written includes a number of women authors.
2. Frank Viola adds “At the time I wrote the post, I hadn’t read any evangelical female commentary writers and asked for recommendations, but no one gave any.” His advocacy for women in the church is expressed in this post “God’s View of a Woman“.
YOUR TURN: We’d love to hear suggestions for a list of the best books written by women academics in the subject area of theology or biblical studies. Who would you include?
- Paul, Singleness, and Mutuality: 3 Proposals for the Church - July 10, 2015
- 100 Best Christian Academic Books…Where are the Women Authors? - July 1, 2014
- Dancing with Deborah: My Exodus from Patriarchy to The Liberation of Women - January 13, 2014